Liam Rector, 57, a Poet and Educator, Dies
Liam Rector, a well-regarded poet and educator whose work appeared in many distinguished publications, shot himself on Wednesday morning at his home in Greenwich Village. He was 57.
Mr. Rector, who had been treated for cancer and heart trouble in the past, left a note in which he expressed distress over his health, his wife, Tree Swenson, said.
At his death, Mr. Rector was the director of the Writing Seminars at Bennington College; he had founded the seminars there in 1994. He had also taught at Columbia University, New School University, Emerson College and elsewhere.
Mr. Rector’s work appeared in The Paris Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares and other publications. He published three volumes of poetry: “The Sorrow of Architecture” (Dragon Gate, 1984); “American Prodigal” (Story Line, 1994); and “The Executive Director of the Fallen World” (University of Chicago, 2006).
Reviewing “The Executive Director of the Fallen World” in The Washington Post, Robert Pinsky said that Mr. Rector “expresses a stringent yet generous tone toward the profane, ignoble world of his title.” He added: “There’s a forgiving element, a sad shrug and smile, in the idea that the vulnerabilities, failings and dreams of our early 20s persist, somewhere in us, for the rest of life.”
Ronald Edward Rector was born in Washington on Nov. 21, 1949; he took the name Liam as an adult. Mr. Rector did undergraduate work at several colleges without receiving a degree. He was nonetheless accepted for graduate work in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, from which he received a master’s degree in 1978. In 1992, he earned a master’s in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Mr. Rector’s first two marriages ended in divorce. Besides his wife, Ms. Swenson, the president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets, he is survived by a daughter from his second marriage, Virginia Rector of Brooklyn, and two stepbrothers.
On hearing of Mr. Rector’s death, colleagues began circulating his poem “The Remarkable Objectivity of Your Old Friends.” It reads in part:
We did right by your death and went out,
Right away, to a public place to drink,
To be with each other, to face it.
We called other friends—the ones
Your mother hadn’t called—and told them
What you had decided, and some said
What you did was right; it was the thing
You wanted and we’d just have to live